Many wine lovers enjoy bold, red wines that feature chocolate notes. But did you know that you can also drink mixtures of wine and melted chocolate? These mixtures are called “chocolate wine”. While this drink might not sound great at first, it can be a delicious alternative to cocoa, mulled wine, or a sweet dessert.
Chocolate wine is a mixed drink made from wine and liquid chocolate. It has a thick texture and is very sweet with aromas of red fruits, caramel, or coffee. It might remind you of a cocoa drink rather than a wine beverage.
Many producers make ready-to-drink chocolate wine; some call it “chocolate liqueur”, though. But instead of buying it, you can also make chocolate wine at home.
Is Wine with Chocolate Flavors Always Chocolate Wine?
Chocolate flavors don’t indicate a chocolate wine. Some regular table wines, especially bold red wines, develop chocolate aromas when they age in oak barrels.
But only mixed drinks that actually contain chocolate as an ingredient are considered chocolate wines. However, the term “chocolate wine” isn’t protected. So vintners may also use it as a name for table wine without chocolate.
What Is Chocolate Wine Made Of?
Chocolate wine is typically made from at least three ingredients:
- Dry, red wine.
- Melted chocolate, usually dark bitter chocolate.
This recipe isn’t carved in stone, though. There are plenty of variations, and if you make it at home, you can alter it in many ways, for instance:
- You can replace the chocolate with milk, cocoa powder, and egg yolks.
- Instead of sugar, you can use sweet fortified wines like Port or Sherry to sweeten the drink. If you aim for a very sweet drink, you might want to waive the dry wine entirely and use only the sweet wine.
- With spices such as cinnamon, cardamom, ginger, or vanilla, you can add aromas to create a more complex flavors profile.
- In some cases, a thickening agent like flour might be necessary to give the mix an enjoyable texture. Heavy cream might do the same job.
How Is Chocolate Wine Made?
Making chocolate wine is very straightforward. Producers buy (or make) red table wine that undergoes the usual production process:
- They harvest the grapes when they have reached optimal ripeness.
- Next, they crush the grapes and ferment them.
- In some cases, they let the wine age.
- Finally, they filter it.
Of course, winemakers don’t go for extremely good or expensive wines; these are simply too good to be diluted with chocolate. However, it is common that they blend different wines and add spices to find the perfect flavor profile for chocolate wine.
The chocolate (or cocoa mix) is prepared separately. If chocolate is part of the recipe, producers heat and melt it first. Then, they blend it with the wine and tweak the flavor of the mix.
How to Make Chocolate Wine at Home?
To make chocolate wine at home, follow these steps:
- Fill the red wine into a pan over low heat.
- Let it simmer for about 15 minutes to reduce its alcohol content.
- At the same time, put a bar of chocolate in a water bath.
- Heat it until the chocolate melts.
- Remove both vessels from the heat. Stir the chocolate slowly into the wine. Using a handheld electric mixer can help but make sure to run it at the lowest speed setting.
- Add spices as you please.
- Keep on stirring until the mix gets frothy.
- Serve the drink warm or let it cool down.
While this process is not difficult, you need to make up your mind about the desired outcome before you begin:
- If you prefer a light wine that is enjoyable when chilled, mix soft milk chocolate with a fruity, light-bodied wine such as Pinot Noir.
- For bolder, richer preparations, combine dark bitter chocolate with a full-bodied wine like Cabernet Sauvignon. This mixture is usually better when served hot.
What Does Chocolate Wine Taste Like?
Chocolate wines are thick drinks, similar to cream-based liqueurs such as Bailey’s or Amarula Cream. They are sweet with perceivable chocolate flavors. Besides, they might feature notes of red fruits, caramel, or coffee.
Be aware that wine aromas typically don’t have much room to shine in mass-produced styles. The bitter-sweet chocolate flavors are simply too dominant. So it’s fair to say that many industrial-made wines taste like a cocoa drink with alcohol.
Of course, that isn’t necessarily true for homemade preparations. As you can alter the drink’s texture and flavor according to your preferences, you can create more balanced mixes that allow both wine and chocolate aromas to shine.
Is It Always Sweet?
Most chocolate wine is sweet. While some have a rather subtle sweetness, others are extremely sweet. In any case, if you don’t have a sweet tooth, you probably won’t enjoy it.
How to Store Chocolate Wine
You should treat chocolate wines like any other table wine: Store them in a cool place, where they are protected from sudden temperature changes, sunlight, vibrations, and intensively smelling chemicals.
As they are typically sealed with screw caps, you can store them upright or lying down.
Can Chocolate Wine Go Bad?
Chocolate wine can go bad when exposed to sunlight or oxygen for too long. Usually, you can smell or taste very intense off-flavors if the wine actually went off. In some cases, it also changes its color.
How Long Does It Last When Open?
Chocolate wines have an extensive lifespan even after opening them. Most styles will keep fine for at least one year.
You have to store it properly, though:
- Make sure to reseal the bottle airtight. If it was sealed with a cork initially, use a bottle stopper from metal or rubber to do so.
- Keep it in your regular fridge. Alternatively, find it a cool and dark spot in your basement.
- Don’t expose it to sunlight for too long.
Can Chocolate Wine Be Aged?
Chocolate wine can’t be aged. Unlike many table wines, it won’t get better if you store it for an extensive period. However, it won’t go bad either. Many producers advise drinking their wines within two years after buying them. But the chance that they will spoil if you keep them unopened longer is close to zero.
How to Serve Chocolate Wine?
There are different ways to serve chocolate wine. The most common practice is to offer it as the last dinner course, either together with or as a replacement for dessert. But it can also be a great afternoon drink that you enjoy instead of coffee or cocoa. Furthermore, it’s a fantastic alternative to mulled wine around Christmas time.
What Is the Optimal Serving Temperature for Chocolate Wine?
The best serving temperature can vary based on the style. Some are better when served warm (just like a cup of cocoa); others should come slightly chilled at 57 to 62°F (14-17°C). When buying a bottle, the label usually indicates the optimal way to serve. For homemade wines, it’s best to try and compare warm and cool servings upfront. You can use a big ice cube to chill the mix.
What Is the Best Glass for Chocolate Wine?
The best glass for chilled chocolate wine is a small dessert wine glass or a Port wine glass. If you own neither, go for a small standard wine glass.
If you prefer a hot serving, better go for a teacup or a coffee mug with a handle so your guests don’t burn their fingers.
Should You Decant Chocolate Wine?
Chocolate wines don’t need any decanting. They have no hidden aromas that require aeration to show up, and they also don’t contain sediments that you need to filter out. So just serve them as soon as they have the desired temperature.
Chocolate Wine and Food Pairing
As mentioned before, chocolate wine is excellent for dessert. Cakes and tarts tend to be good pairings. The same is true for fruit-based dishes such as fruit salads. An even better option is a platter of fruits and cheeses.
You should not pair it with very sweet desserts, though. Although chocolate-based dishes might come to your mind as great pairings, they are not. Better enjoy chocolate desserts with regular table wine.
However, there is no need to pair your wine with food. Especially on a cold winter day, you can enjoy it on its own by the chimney.
Chocolate wines are controversial in the wine lover community. And especially for people who disregard sweet wines whatsoever, they are a red flag. However, it’s always better to taste a wine yourself instead of relying upon the judgment of others. And especially if you enjoy rich, sweet dessert wines such as Port, Commandaria, or Madeira, you should give it a try.